It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Americans suffers from chronic pain every year. Chronic pain is categorized as pain that typically lasts longer than six months. Osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and neck or back pain are all conditions that can result in chronic pain, and can significantly affect quality of life.
According to the U.S. Pain Foundation, people living with chronic pain may be at greater risk of developing serious complications if they contract COVID-19. “Pain may also be exacerbated right now due to the added stress and uncertainty of the pandemic,” said Dr. Ann Monroe, a fellowship-trained pain management specialist at Holland Hospital. “The good news is, there are several strategies for coping with pain, and visiting your doctor for regular medical care is a great first step. Chronic health issues can worsen if they aren’t effectively managed, so it’s important to remember that hospitals and health care facilities have implemented precautions and practices to keep patients safe.”
7 Tips for Reducing Your Pain
- Lower stress. Depression, anxiety, anger and stress can all elevate the body’s sensitivity to pain. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as listening to music, practicing guided imagery and meditating can improve mood, promote relaxation and make living with chronic pain more bearable.
- Exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins—mood enhancing chemicals that also help to block pain signals. Plus, regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, strengthen muscles and more. Before you jump into working out, talk to your health care provider about what activities might be best (and safest) for you.
- Breathe deeply. Individuals with chronic pain have a tendency to hold their breath during a flare-up, or breathe fast and shallow. Simply learning and performing deep breathing can encourage relaxation, ease your pain and boost your overall wellness.
- Check into therapeutic massage. No longer considered just an indulgence, massage has been studied for its positive effects on back, hand, neck and knee pain (among other areas).
- Cut back on alcohol, and if you smoke, quit. Pain can make getting quality sleep more challenging, and alcohol can further disrupt your Zzz’s. Smoking cigarettes can worsen pain from circulation problems, not to mention raise your risk of heart disease and cancer. So if you smoke, don’t quit on the idea of quitting.
- Eat well. Enjoying a well-balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, can help you feel better by aiding your digestion, keeping your weight under control and improving your blood sugar.
- Do what you love. “While you can’t always avoid pain, you can focus more of your energy on doing things that bring you joy, whether it’s gardening, painting or another hobby,” Dr. Monroe said. “Nurturing a pastime can be a welcome distraction from the pain.”
Holland Hospital Pain Management can help you or someone you love realize a healthier, higher quality of life. Our fellowship-trained pain management specialist offers non-surgical options designed to benefit a wide range of conditions, including back and neck pain, shoulder pain, muscle pain, and arthritis. Call (616) 738-3884 or visit https://www.hollandhospital.org/hh/hh-pain-management.aspx.